The government’s multi-million pound advertising campaign to drive up UK skills has been called into question by business groups over whether public money has been well spent.
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has launched a £28m three-year campaign – ‘Our future. It’s in our hands’ – featuring TV, radio and online advertising, which aims to improve employers’ and individuals’ attitudes to learning.
The campaign is a direct response to the Leitch Review, which warned the UK must become a world leader in skills by 2020 or face a “bleak future”.
New skills minister David Lammy told Personnel Today he wanted employers to respond to the ads by assessing their workforce and providing more training where necessary.
But Miles Templeman, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said: “I am nervous the ad is going to be stating skills are important, but does not say what the government is going to do about it, or how businesses can act. It may not be the best use of resources, and it may not be productive.”
Far too many employers do not know how to access Train to Gain, the government initiative designed to help businesses access training, Templeman added. “Don’t let’s waste too much resource on [the PR campaign]. What employers want is for the government to focus on implementation,” he said.
Jim Hillage, research director at the Institute for Employment Studies, agreed a general marketing campaign may be too vague. “I’m concerned that the money spent on general TV ads could be better used to try and reach those employers and employees currently not interested in skills development,” he said.
The campaign suffered a further blow when Sir Digby Jones left the post of skills envoy to become minister of trade promotion, with doubts over whether he will be replaced.
A spokesman for the British Chambers of Commerce said: “Skills for business needs to be pushed up the agenda, and we fear that it will run out of impetus now that [Jones] has gone.”